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ECAC Top Spots Still Within Reach

High Goals As Union, RPI Skate to Season's End

By Matt Graves

Albany Times Union, February 17, 2006

TROY - It's down to the final four for RPI and Union, and opportunities abound for the area college hockey teams as the ECAC Hockey League's regular season reaches its penultimate weekend.

Union sits in sixth place with 20 points, four more than eighth-place Clarkson - the final team in line for a home berth in the first round - and five fewer than first-place Cornell. The top four get a first-round bye, and the Dutchmen could still finish as high as first if all the stars line up the next two weeks.

RPI is in seventh place with 18 points, but a sweep of the final four games would leave the Engineers with a mathematical chance to win the league. That would take a freaky combination of ingredients that include a must-sweep of Princeton and Quinnipiac.

"It's three points to the top four," said RPI captain Kevin Croxton. "You never want to be in a spot where you need a lot of help just to get home ice. As long as we win the last four games, that's all you can control."

RPI was swept by Princeton last season, a streak the Engineers ended in Troy on Nov. 12. However, the Tigers have been one of the league's most improved teams and recently swept travel partners Cornell/Colgate and Clarkson/St. Lawrence before dropping a pair of overtime decisions last week to Harvard and Dartmouth, the league's most dangerous team (8-0-2 in its last 10 league games).

"Everyone in the league seems to be playing playoff hockey right now," Croxton said. "It's real tight up there, and it's good to see."

RPI (7-7-4) has lost its past four road league games and can ill afford to continue that trend with top dogs Cornell and Colgate coming to town to finish the regular season. RPI played much better last week in two wins.

"We knew we'd be in the hunt once the guys that were injured came back," said RPI coach Dan Fridgen, who will be without forwards Kevin Broad and Tyler Eaves.

Local recruits: Union's recruiting class includes four forwards, a defenseman, and a goaltender to help fill the void of departing senior Kris Mayotte. Coach Nate Leaman has tabbed Shaun Williams of Erie, Pa.

Other recruits include 6-2, 195-pound F Jeff Christiansen, Andrew Estey, Justin Pallos and Jonathan Lareau of the Junior Bruins, and Northwood Prep F Mario Valery-Trabucco.

A pair of forwards and two defensemen appear headed for RPI, including D Erik Burgdorfer from Apple Core of the Eastern Junior Hockey League. F Jordan Cyr and Paul Kerins are joined by D Jason Fortino.

Ice chips: F Dan Peace will sit for RPI tonight after a game disqualification vs. Brown. ... F Casey Ftorek, who missed some time early this season while competing for Union in the NCAA Division III soccer tournament, has left the hockey team. The Dutchmen are also without freshmen Lane Caffaro and T.J. Fox, who have been suspended for undisclosed reasons. ... G Mathias Lange and F Andrew Lord of RPI and Union F Olivier Bouchard and Jonathan Poirier made this week's ECACHL honor roll. ... Harvard D Tom Walsh and Quinnipiac D Reid Cashman have been selected as semifinalists for the 54th Walter Brown Award, presented annually to the best American-born college player in New England.